Friday, 29 July 2016

A Court of Mist and Fury

Rating: 5/5 (or 10/5 if I could give 10)
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Published: May 3rd, 2016
Author: Sarah J. Maas

Hello everyone! It's Shani here today, I apologise for not posting on here for quite some time, we have all been very busy with volunteering and some of us have been on courses for the last two weeks. That being said I have managed to read quite a fair amount and I really wanted to share with you guys my new favourite book. I know, you're probably thinking: 'What? How can Shani have chosen her favourite book, she has so many!' And yes my dears, I do. However I have found my favourite book of the year (so far!) and this book has also been added to my top ten favourite books of  all time. So if you hadn't guessed from the title, the book I'm reviewing today is A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah. J Maas, the sequel in the A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy.

Okay, so wow. This novel was incredible! I'm first going to give a brief summary of the plot. Feyre Archeron has just been transformed into a High Fae after defeating Amarantha, the evil fae who claimed herself High Lady of Prythian, and is struggling to control her new found powers given to her by the other courts, and is suffering from PTSD, panic attacks, anxiety disorder and claustrophobia. Tamlin, Feyre's betrothed at the start of the novel, is completely ignoring the fact that Feyre is having nightmares and is increasingly becoming sick due to his overprotective nature towards her and her own mental state. This part of the novel was especially difficult for me to read, Maas portrays a subtly abusive relationship very well, Tamlin doesn't outright attack Feyre at the beginning, it takes about one hundred pages for a physical attack to actually commence - and even then he doesn't end up physically hurting her, because Feyre uses a windshield to protect herself against his attack -  however the subtly that Maas uses is very affective, and shows the reader how subtle abuse can be when you're in a relationship. What I really love about ACOMAF is how Tamlin and Rhysand's roles become reversed. Tamlin becomes the antagonist and Rhysand becomes the protagonist, it's so clever in the way Maas switches their roles and I've never read a book where this has been done before. Normally a protagonist remains a protagonist, and an anatagonist or 'anti-hero' remains one as well. I think this is another reason why I enjoyed this novel so much, it really makes the reader choose a side - Which in this case is Rhysand - and makes the reader understand how Tamlin mistreated Feyre. Rhysand rescuses Feyre after Tamlin locks her up inside their home, refusing to let her out and Feyre has a panic attack because of this. Rhys senses her fear and sadness from their bond, which if you've read A Court of Thorns and Roses know they formed in Feyre's desperation, and he goes to rescue her. Rhysand then invites Feyre to join the Night Court (AKA Mine and Lydia's home, we are obsessed with the Night Court), and she agrees.
The novel basically revolves around Feyre learning how to control her powers, how to put on a mask at the Night Court, and how she is Rhysand's mate. I adored Rhys and Feyre's character development in this novel, they both come so far from the people that they were in A Court of Thorns and Roses. Feyre learns that she only fell in love with Tamlin because he was the first person that was ever truly kind to her, and that his love for her is a poison rather than a balm. Rhys' love for Feyre is very clear during the novel and it made me want to cry the entire time, (I was sobbing uncontrollably at Chapter 54, oh my goodness!). The novel ends with Feyre and Rhysand going to get the Cauldron back, but being ambushed by the King, Tamlin and Lucien. Tamlin requests that Feyre return to him, and after Azriel and Cassian become gravely injured - they are both apart of Rhys' inner circle - she agrees to go with Tamlin. However, oh the however, Feyre and Rhysand snuck out the night before the battle and had Feyre appointed as High Lady of the Night Court, alongside Rhys who is High Lord of the Night Court. I screamed so much at this part, oh my goodness. The last line of the novel is haunting, it ends with Feyre walking back into the Spring Court, her old home: 'And so Tamlin unwittingly led the High Lady of the Night Court into the heart of his territory.' OH MY GOD. Basically, Feyre has gone into Tamlin's home to mess stuff up - Big time.
Honestly, words cannot describe how much I love this novel. I  adored the new characters that Maas introduced us to such as Mor, Cassian, Azriel, Amren and getting to see Nesta and Elain again, Feyre's human sisters, was wonderful! Rhys is by far my favourite character, he has endured a lot of tragedy and heartbreak as a character: 'Everything I love has a tendency to be taken from me.'  I think that's one of the main things I admire about his characterisation, the amount of pain he has been through but despite that he can still smile, he can still laugh and be happy. It's a very human quality.
I thought that this novel had the perfect balance of poetic description and realistic writing. I'm a sucker for poetic writing, I love it and it's one of the main styles I like to use. However, using too much poetic and romanticised language can make the plot of the novel very dry and boring, Maas has a perfect balance, she keeps the action going but she manages to incorporate poetic language which stirs your heart. I hope to succeeded this in my own writing.
I couldn't fault a single thing wrong with this novel, it was just perfect. It was much better then it's prequel A Court of Thorns and Roses, perhaps because it was longer and had more time to develop the plot, or perhaps because Tamlin gets completely disregarded in this novel and we all end up loving Rhysand. Either way, I am so excited for the last novel to come out next year and Maas has also announced that there will be another trilogy set in the ACOTAR's world alongside two novella's written during A Court of Mist and Fury. I'm waiting in anticipation for all of these to be released.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Girl Heart Girl

Title: Girl Heart Girl
Author: Lucy Sutcliffe
Published: June 2016
Rating: 6/10

Hey guys, its Lydia here!!
Sorry it's been quite a while since I last posted on the blog, I've been so busy lately, with things going on at school and then I was volunteering for a few days, anyway since then I've finish reading Girl Heart Girl and I'm still reading Testament of Youth along with Extraordinary Means.
This book I found was rather similar to the last book I read, Finding Audrey, as its about a young girl/woman finding herself and discovering new things, with Finding Audrey it was overcoming her anxiety, with Girl Heart Girl it was a girl finding herself through her sexuality.

Like my other reviews I'm going to split up the negative and positive views of the novel.

Starting with the positives. Overall it was an enjoyable read, as I think there aren't enough books and novels about lesbian relationships, this one is the first one I've come across in the YA section of my local book shop. The progressiveness of the story was brilliant, Sutcliffe started the story from when she was young, telling the reader how from a little girl Lucy (the narrator) felt that she was different, introduced and foreshadowed what was later to come very nicely.
 The whole book was written in the style of a memoir, which was intriguing as it memories from the author Lucy Sutcliffe herself.
 The progress of her finding Kaelyn (Lucy's girlfriend) was very sweet and lifelike, as some romance themed YA novels aren't realistic, its almost as if they find their true love or soul mate straight away. Whereas Sutcliffe's book shows how she struggled with relationships and love, because she was unsure about her sexuality, then when she's around seventeen she realises she's a lesbian. It was lovely how Kaelyn and Lucy posted all their videos they made together on Youtube, again it makes the novels more realistic and modern.
The book left a good feel after finishing, it was heartfelt, personal and real.


This novel I would say is mainly aimed at thirteen to fourteen year olds and upwards, as the language is quite simplistic and easy to read. Its quite funny really because I keep on picking up books that are too young for me, and half way through I realise that I kind need something more adulty. It doesn't matter too much, but I think publishers should really have the age group of the book on the back with the synopsis.
Now, what I didn't like was that none of the characters where described, not even Lucy or Kaelyn themselves! This made it really difficult to picture what they all looked like, this would be something crucial to include in a story, it is all linked to how reader imagines the world that characters live in.
There wasn't enough confrontation with how her friends and family felt about her new profound sexuality, even though its the 21st century there are millions of people who have homophobic views, however it is a memoir so Sutcliffe may not have been faced with any homophobic confrontation that lead to violence or abuse. Again this is from the perspective of a older viewer, so this might have been inappropriate for the age group of the book if it was included. I would have liked to see more aspects of the book where Lucy and Kaelyn were alone, where they built the foundation of their relationship, this is the lovey-dovy romance reader coming through in my reviews, but yes it would have been interesting to see how a relationship, which started from emails and social media developing into a face to face connection.
That's it from me now.
 Hope you enjoyed this review, please leave some comments or email us on any suggestions on some books to read. We want to hear your opinions!
P.S Shani has a book tube channel. So go follow Shanireads to find out more of what she's been reading!









Sunday, 24 July 2016

The Invisible Man

Hi, this is Heather! Sorry for not posting in a while, we've all been rather busy with the start of summer :) 

Author: H.G. Wells
Published: 1897
Publisher: Originally, it was published in Pearson's Weekly, but Penguin published my copy!
My rating: 4/5

Strangely enough, it took until chapter four that I was certain the main man in the story, Griffin, was (spoiler alert for those that never think of the obvious reasons, like myself) invisible. I was sure at first that the invisibility was simply a metaphorical idea, or perhaps that the man was so grotesque that he wanted to be invisible. For those unfamiliar, the plot is quite basic – Griffin is an invisible man, at first he seems to be struggling yet succeeding in concealing this, but later the invisibility is revealed and he goes a little bit crazy. ‘A little bit’ being an understatement since he wants to kill any human that disobeys him. My query to other readers is to consider what is worse: being looked at with disgust due to how you look, or fear due to not being seen? This concept really intrigued me as I progressed through the book, particularly as I have recently read Frankenstein with my fellow bloggers in class. Humanity is so used to being prepared for situations and taught what to do that when something peculiar or abnormal appears; they sometimes panic and lose all rationality.
I found the last few chapters especially enthralling and was disappointed when the book ended. If I am honest, some aspects of the start of the book were confusing – for instance, having the protagonist referred to as ‘the stranger’, making the reader feel distant instead of close to them. These questions were answered later on though and made the explanation behind them all the more curious, so I can see why Wells did this. I did not look very favourably on any of the characters, or get to really know any of them all that well! One of my teachers once remarked how the best authors can make the reader enjoy a novel despite hating the characters within it and that is certainly true for this book. In the world created by Wells, kindness is scarcely seen and hence no one seems to have any sympathy towards the invisible man, and he does not appear all too capable of being nice himself.
Understanding the motives of Griffin in more depth would have made this book peek to five stars; I felt as though his hatred for humanity was a bit random. At first, he was content to rob a little but not kill or hurt anyone severely, yet this changed drastically when his invisibility was exposed. Granted, the isolation and insecurity of having others judge you harshly for literally nothing would provoke anger, but surely Griffin could empathise with visible humans, having been one previously: it struck me as odd that he did not consider their perspective. Maybe the experiment altered him mentally, or the lack of human contact made him go a little crazy, but nevertheless I would have liked to have been in Griffin’s head a bit more in order to have understood him. 
Another concept of the book I’d like to discuss is power. To Griffin, having the ability to dance around the other humans without the acknowledgement of being there has the same affect as some find in a shot of vodka – he feels confident, invincible and mighty, ready to initiate the ‘reign of terror’. He was like a poltergeist in a horror film, the ease to provoke fear in others only further inflating his ego. I found myself pitying the victims that had had the misfortune of coming across him. Even before becoming invisible that poor kitty is tested on with a horrendous lack of mercy, which made me lose any sympathy I had for him earlier.

I did really enjoy reading this book and found it a good size for storing in my handbag to read whilst on the train or waiting for appointments. The science-fiction with horror combination is not appealing to everybody, but for those that do like an action-packed story I would certainly suggest reading it. I can definitely see some inspiration from Shelley the way that Wells put scientific explanation to fantasy ideas to evoke themes of horror.

Friday, 15 July 2016

We will remember them

Hi guys its Lydia!
In English Literature we are studying Regeneration by Pat Barker, which Shani has already done a book review on. Its a very interesting and powerful book, and I've been doing loads of research on the First World War, and I was so enraged and fuelled with sadness and anger that a wrote a poem.
I'm pretty sure that the title of the poem has been already taken by a famous poet, but I simply couldn't think of any other title.

We will remember them on this day,
From in our minds it will never stray.
A few minutes silence is not enough,
For those who gave up their lives for us.

Can you imagine what they carried?
The death, the blood, the strain,
and the tricks it played on their brain.
The men who lived did not feel lucky,
Only the gnaw that their friends won't rise.

Young men slaughtered but at what cost?
Lead by blind leaders, into an old mans war.
In 1918 it had ended, four years and one million dead.
Its bound to be a short war they all said.


Thursday, 14 July 2016

Bricking It

Alright, I had just watched over two hours of The Jeremy Kyle Show, so my brain was half attached to wondering why anyone would want to date a man whose slept with your friend and their mother… anyway, that’s my excuse for this not being written brilliantly. This is my (this is Heather by the way, should probably have said that earlier) review on Bricking it.


Author: Nick Spalding
Published: December 2015
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
My rating: 4.5/5

My motivation behind buying this book mainly lies behind the lovely £1 price tag on the kindle store. It is most definitely not the type of book that you label as a poetic and deeply philosophical; it won’t make you hum and ponder the meaning of life, but it will make you laugh and smile, which is good enough for me. The book is told through the perspective of two siblings who have inherited a derelict farmhouse from their grandma and decide to take up the challenge of renovating it. The writing style is endearing, concise yet full of strong character and humour; ‘There could be anything in there. Rats… spiders… the Grim Reaper.’
The highlight of the novel was Pat The Cow and her relationship with Daniel. Pat The Cow is a legendary cow (you probably guessed that by her name) that Daniel is convinced has supernatural powers. She seems to inhabit the house when they first arrive. She somehow appears one time, surprising Daniel when he is wandering upstairs singing Taylor Swift’s Blank Space. I don’t really know how to sum up the friendship between a cow and a man, so I hope these quotations do a better job than I can supply:
‘Pat The Cow is obviously part ninja, and I don’t want to end up skewered on the end of an expertly thrown ninja cow dagger.’
‘But we are dealing with a very special cow here. One able to vanish without a trace, like Batman.”
‘It is Pattus Cowisicus, Roman deity of death and destruction. She has come to claim me! Claim me for her own!
‘It’s Pat The Cow, she’s Pat The Cow. If you’re in trouble, she’ll come right now. She catches thieves, she catches thugs. She’ll tell her your dad if you grow drugs.’
‘”Moo,” Pat The Cow says, the menace dripping from every syllable. Yes, I know moo has only one syllable, but Pat The Cow laughs in the face of your stupid grammatical rules.’
Another impressive aspect of the novel was the bundle of vivid personality put into each character. The relationship between the builders was another thing that made the book easy to visualise; I adored the nicknames that Fred used for Daniel, like ‘my old cupcake’. I also loved the sibling friendship; they were blunt, honest and protective.
I was absolutely thrilled by the ending – it’s really hard to find an author that can write about love without tarnishing it with pretentious and cliché lines topped with a bit of selfishness. So when I read the last few pages, I was chuffed to see one character do something entirely selfless without requesting a reward or requited feelings, he just wanted to make the person he loved happy. Also, Spalding includes a homosexual relationship as another element of the novel which, as Shani has stressed before, used to be quite rare. There are far darker views of love expressed as well, one of the protagonists having gone through a rather abusive marriage. It is a massive challenge for an author to include such serious matters in a light-hearted book. Though for this reason and the incidents themed around… adult subjects (as an after note I’d like to add that no, this is not a reference to explicit sexy scenes, that’d be gross, just some adult humour) perhaps an audience of over twelve would be more suitable.
What could have been better? Well I would have loved some visual aid to the book – whilst Spalding somehow manages to provide enough imagery to form a mental image of the house in the reader’s head, I like pretty pictures. My rating is notably high because I left the book feeling satisfied, the ending was sweet and had nice morals to it.
To conclude on the book, it’s a beautiful distraction to make one forget about whatever woes they may have. In case the several synonyms for ‘funny’ haven’t been noticed, the book is hilarious. Usually whilst reading, I’ll puff an extra quantity of air out when something funny occurs, but this time I actually did really laugh. Luckily I only read it at home else I fear I’d have gained some rather strange looks. So, because of the adult themes I’d recommend this to most people over the age of twelve - I must reiterate the fact it costs ONE POUND on kindle at the moment, so buy it! Of course, anyone that dislikes comedy should probably also stay away from the book.

I should be uploading a review on The Invisible Man soon since I’m about a third of the way through it and am slightly hooked. You never know, one day I might even torture the blog to some of my creative writing. Please have a read of my fellow readers blog entries and their own pieces; Shani and Lydia are excellent writers! 

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Finding Audrey

Author: Sophie Kinsella
Published: 2015
Publisher: Corgi Books
My rating: 3/5

Hey guys, its Lydia here!
I’m going to be doing a review on the book I finished yesterday, Finding Audrey.
I would definitely recommend this book for people with a mental illness, as the novel is all about how this 14/15 year old girl overcome her anxiety and how she finds someone who makes her feel less alone. After reading the book I felt filled and happy, because the character hadn’t completely overcome her anxiety but she had become a different person and the book ended on a good note. The novel is a good representation of life, that is why I really love reading and writing in the contemporary style, don't get me wrong I like to read fantasy, however sometimes the book could become so unrealistic that you can't relate yourself to the book/novel.  I would say that this book is aimed at readers aged 12-15 as the language is quite simplistic and easy to read.
For the rest of the review I’m going to split it into what I enjoyed about the book and what I didn't like. I promise there are more positives than negatives. 

Positives:
What I found really interesting is the fact that Audrey has isolated herself from society and public, by restricting herself to her house and her room, she can only talk to her family members but even then she has to even sun glasses, as she doesn’t like to make direct eye contact with people. It conveys how serious her anxiety is. I can really relate to her as a character, as I also have anxiety, it’s not as extreme as hers, but I can understand and empathise how she gets jittery and panicked by little incidents that wouldn’t affect her family or friends.
  I really liked the humour in the book, it did make me laugh out loud and not many books do that for me. Audrey’s mum and her brother Frank are really realistic characters, a teenage boy obsessed over computer games and his protective and controlling mother trying to convince him to go outside or do some exercise. I really liked how at the beginning of the book, it’s their mum throwing Frank’s laptop out the bedroom window, because she think the game LOC is corrupting her son, it’s just hilarious.
What is unique is that we get to see Audrey’s sessions with her therapist/physiatrist, and her relationship with Dr. Sarah. Again it makes the novel realistic and life like, as young people with a mental illness would commonly do this.
The character Linus was a strange character because there wasn’t much backstory on him, except that he couldn’t play video games at his house, because his Nan had dementia. I have a mixed feeling about him. His physical appearance isn’t described must either. I don’t know whether that’s because Audrey is the narrator for the story and that she is insular, and is also afraid to think about his features because she’s afraid of what it could develop into, the whole effect of her anxiety that leads her to jump to conclusions and assume what people are thinking . In my opinion the whole reason for the existence of the character is to show Audrey that not everyone talks about her and judges her. How Linus almost pulls her back to the person who she used to be, he makes her happy, he makes her wants to go to Starbucks and be outside, and more or less enjoy her life.       

Negatives:
One of the aspects I didn't like about Finding Audrey is the fact that the character implies that something happened to her at school that caused her anxiety or mental breakdown, it's mainly implied that it was bullying, however the character never tells the reader what happened. For me as a writer this would have been one of the most crucial things to include in a story. Perhaps it was part of Kinsella's way of letting the reader suss out what happened to Audrey, and what resulted in her anxiety.

 The only other thing I found that I didn't like, was that the novel was overly prolonged. I don't think it needed to be that long. It took a while for me as a reader to get to the core of the story. Again as a writer and a student who studies English Literature, Kinsella could have done this so the reader feels more introduced to the characters and gets to see their personality more. 

Hope you enjoyed this review, please go check out the other reviews we have up by Shani and Heather. 
Please tell me your thoughts about the book in the comment bar below.








Monday, 11 July 2016

Animal Farm

Hey, it's Heather. This review is about Orwell's Animal Farm!

Author: George Orwell
Published: August 1945
Publisher: Harcourt Brace and Company
My rating: 4/5

When I first took sociology it seemed logical to read Animal Farm, considering that it mingles my two favourite subjects together in less than 200 pages. Somehow this year has flown by and it was just a week ago that I opened the book. My expectations for the novella were raised pretty high; I was even convinced it was fate for me to read this book when I noted that Lydia’s copy of the book had an introduction by Malcolm Bradbury as coincidentally this is the same name as my grandpa. The book is set on a farm featuring several pompous pigs, a herd of sheep that parrot the pigs’ thoughts, a few dogs and horses as well as some other farmyard friends. The animals are assembled at the barn where they listen to Old Major the boar plead that the animals start a revolution against humans once he is deceased. He describes a place where animals control themselves and are no longer forced to commit to tiresome labour until they die. This suggestion of equality appeals to the others and so they go ahead and take over the farmers, starting a farm run entirely by animals. However, the communist ideas thought of by Old Major are soon abandoned as the farm eventually develops into a capitalist establishment where the pigs take the role of humans. I feel the key quote here is that "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
Orwell’s writing style is fast-paced, making it a riveting read with very little waffle. Each character is flawed in some way, some are too gullible, others greedy, cynical or deceitful. Furthermore, there is no obvious protagonist as the story focuses on several animals which makes the story all the more interesting as several perspectives are shown. Having read Emma by Jane Austen a few months ago, I am in the habit of writing down the name of every character mentioned but found this unnecessary since Orwell’s characters are each so memorable. These are all definitely advantages of the book, which meant I was able to read it all really quickly without backtracking. The sociology featured is very basic, mostly themed around Karl Marx’s idea through Old Major that the ruling class have instated a ruling class ideology on the others, so they are passive conformists that have been put under false consciousness. This means that the animals on the farm are not aware that they have been mistreated and it takes Old Major to provoke class consciousness (when they realise the exploitations they are subject to) and hence a revolution resulting in communism. The boar also represents Lenin, who contributed to the communist takeover in Russia, notably his successor was Stalin, who is reflected through Napoleon the pig in the book. There is no doubting the intelligence of that pig throughout the story but I severely disliked him. His rival in the novella is another pig, Snowball, who can also be viewed as Lenin in some ways but is more like Trotsky, who worked with Stalin for a while until they disagreed about some of his policies and was consequently exiled from the Soviet Union. There are more famous leaders among sociology scattered around the book, but if you are not particularly passionate in this area I would like to put emphasis on the point that you can read the novella without any of this sociology in mind. I would actually recommend initially reading the book without focusing too much on the background, just as a curious story and then rereading it with more explanation (it’s only 112 pages!).
Generally, I cannot complain about the book, it was like a burst of sherbet – a sharp burst of flavours. Yet the ending was where the sugar rush finished rather abruptly; I’ll be honest, I was disappointed. The ending echoes the words of Benjamin the pessimistic donkey; “Life will go on as it has always gone on – that is badly.” I love a good happy ending with frogs, princesses, emotional hugs and wet handkerchiefs so perhaps this is why I felt slightly saddened at the continuity of misery. Many would insist that this realistic element makes the novella remarkable, and they are probably right yet I just wanted to give Clover the horse a hug (this is odd as I got knocked over by a horse when I was younger and have stayed away from them ever since) and give the animals the future they deserved. Regardless of the ending, it was definitely worth a read and I found several of the ideas expressed very thought provoking. Even though I felt like I was being kicked in the stomach from the lack of cheeriness, the last line of the book was one of my favourites; "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which." For those that do have an interest in politics, history or sociology I would especially urge you to read this, though I think most people will find the subjects covered intriguing. I also need to warn anyone I know that even briefly bringing up Boxer will make me cry.

Once again, I hope you liked the review and will read the book if you haven't already! Any suggestions for books to read are always appreciated.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Regeneration

Hello! It's Shani. Today I'm going to be discussing the book Regeneration by Pat Barker, a novel the girls and I are studying in English, and I'm going to be discussing what significance that this book has.

Publisher:Viking Press
Published: May 30, 1991
My Rating: 5/5

Okay so firstly let's start with Barker's plot. Regeneration, the first in the Regeneration trilogy, is focused around Craiglockhart, a mental hospital for traumatised - or Shell shocked - soldiers who have been serving on the front line in World War One. Siegfried Sassoon, a famous poet and soldier, has just been sent to Craiglockhart for being 'shell shocked' when he actually isn't. Sassoon doesn't want the war to continue and writes in a declaration to the public, which is read out in parliament, that politicians and the general public have no idea how much the soldiers suffer out on the front lines. Sassoon even throws away his medal of honour in disgust. His friend, Robert Graves, sways the Board to send him to Craiglockhart instead of being court-martialled. Sassoon agrees and he goes to live at the hospital. Whilst there, he is under the care of psychiatrist William Rivers, and meets Owen Wilfred, at the time Wilfred was an aspiring poet and greatly looked up to Sassoon. Rivers also takes care of Billy Prior who is mute at the beginning of the novel. What I love about this book is how Rivers' opinions on the war change and how his views on the world are shaped by the patients he treats. He feels sympathetic for all of his patients, but he cannot truly understand the horrors which they have lived - I think at times this makes him frustrated because this makes it slightly harder for him to treat them - but he tries to use peaceful methods in order for the soldiers to overcome their shell shock. This story was heartbreaking in so many ways, Heather and I were talking about how tearful we were getting whilst reading it, but there are two points in this novel that really stand out for me. The first is on page 199, where Graves (Robert Graves) and Sassoon are talking about how Graves' companion was discovered to be a homosexual, Graves in fear assures Sassoon that he isn't a homosexual: 'I'd hate you to have any misconceptions. About me. I'd hate you to think I was homosexual even in thought.' Oh my goodness, at this point I was stunned. I had read some context about Sassoon and he was in fact homosexual, which makes what happens next even more heartbreaking. Robert tells Sassoon that his friend is being sent to Rivers to be 'cured' in which Sassoon replies: 'Sassoon smiled faintly. 'Yes, of course,' ' I was in tears at this point. The blatant pain that Barker has used in that one sentence completely blew me away. I felt so awful for Sassoon, I just wanted to reach into the book and give him a hug. Me and Heather had a good mope over this. The second is in chapter twenty-one of the novel where Dr. Yealland electrocutes his patient Callan, in an attempt to fix his mutism. When we compare Dr. Yealland and Rivers they act as foils, or dramatic foils, they are complete opposites. Rivers represents peace and tranquility within his profession, he cares profoundly about his patients. Whereas Dr. Yealland represents pain and suffering, in my opinion I don't believe he cares much for his patients at all: 'Callan wrenched his arm out of Yealland's grasp and ran to the door.' I just thought that this part of the novel was really distressing, I can't imagine how frightened Callan must have been. Rivers leaves feeling upset and rather disgusted about the whole ordeal - he is reflecting the reader's views at this point. I know that Lydia and Heather found this point of the book very disturbing as well. I think overall that this novel is a harsh reality, it doesn't romanticise the war at all, and it makes the reader have a great sense of pathos for the characters in the novel. We pity them, we feel terrible for them, but we know what's going to happen to them. Wilfred Owen for example died one week before the war ended, in a way this made the novel harder for me to read because every time he is mentioned I would feel extremely sympathetic towards his character, knowing what fate he has after he leaves Craiglockhart.

I think the characters in this novel were very real and engaging. I adore all of these characters very much, but I particularly have a soft spot for Billy Prior and Rivers. I love the dynamic between the pair of them, Rivers treats Prior like a son, and though Prior is horrible towards Sarah (Me and Heather were very much outraged at the church scene where he attempts to sexually assault her), I think his character development is wonderful and his snarky attitude made me laugh a lot. Rivers is another of my favourites because he has a very caring attitude and does his best to look after his patients, his own health beings to deteriorate because of this. Rivers is a father figure type protagonist, he expresses his admiration towards his patients and the pride he feels when they have achieved a certain milestone. In addition to this I loved Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon as well, and the way we see their relationship develop too.

Overall, this has been my favourite book which we have studied in my English Literature class so far. World War One and Two have always been particular interests of mine and I loved studying the topics in history. One of my favourite genres is also historical-fiction which is another major reason why I enjoyed this book so much. Barker did a fabulous job with Regeneration and I can't wait to get the next book in the trilogy, The Eye in the Door, which is mainly focused around Billy Prior and Rivers. If you are interested in World War One and historical-fiction I would definitely recommend this to read!

Sane New World: Taming the Mind

Hiya, this is Heather, today I'm posting about a non-fiction book for a change! 

Author: Ruby Wax
Published: June 2013
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
My rating: 5/5

I purchased this book in the charming Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye whilst on holiday last year. For those unfamiliar with the place, it is home to around 38 bookshops so naturally my parents and I were drawn (much to the dismay of my brother, who I think would rather have gone to the cinema and seen terrible book-to-film adaptations). After swallowing down a few pages of this book (not literally), I decided that it deserved my focus so I stored it safely on my bookshelf whilst distracting myself with schoolwork and fiction until last week.
The books that are worthy of five stars are the ones that change your perspective on the world for a minute. I think this is quite possibly the first non-fiction book to have had that affect on me, making me honestly believe that every second of life is so beautifully significant. The book is dedicated to ‘taming the mind’ through gaining a basic understanding of how the mind works. The idea is that if you can learn to comprehend how emotions are provoked, to an extent you may also control them.
“Gloria Gaynor was wrong when she sang, ‘I am what I am’. She will have to change those lyrics but it won’t be so easy to dance to. What rhymes with neuroplasticity?”
Wax writes in a style that both entertains and educates, whilst also bearing on some of her own personal challenges. Her honesty is refreshing and relatable most of the time, at many points I have been tempted to retrieve a pencil and circle lines with the caption ‘LOL’ and ‘#sotrue’, but have refrained due to the fact that when rereading the novel I do not want to cringe at my commentary.
The book is divided into five sections; the first two sections talk about humanity and mental disorders like depression, the next is basic neuroscience, then the last two show you how to master your own thoughts. I found the third section so interesting that I worried I might forget it later and wrote five pages of notes on it, creating my own dictionary of neuroscience. When I reached the fourth section, I realised how ridiculously pointless this was – I am not being tested on the content of the novel and I will be able to refer to bits of the novel later on – then read the remainder of the book like a normal person would. The highlight of the novel was a method of mindfulness whereby Wax instructed that the reader should put a piece of chocolate on their tongue and spend time noticing the texture, taste sensations, how the mouth moves to chew it etc. The technique aimed to remind the reader that they are often in autopilot mode and do not think about how they are doing something, I sometimes appear at school and ponder what actually happened during the weekend because I honestly cannot recall, then get stuck in the clouds thinking about how to spell ‘May’ and boom, it’s June and I have achieved nothing with my life. I also appreciated being told to eat chocolate, that’s always a benefit of any book.
I’d recommend this book to literally anyone (okay, maybe not anyone, my cat would struggle with it). The book has eight and a bit pages devoted to showing evidence that mindfulness works and can significantly weaken depression, OCD, anxiety and tons of other mental disorders that one in four of us suffer from. A few people I’ve mentioned the book to have shuddered at the word ‘neuroscience’ and ‘psychology’ and even ‘brain’… I really don’t get the ‘brain’ reaction; a guy in Arthur was nicknamed Brain and he was hardly daunting. Wax explains everything so clearly that even I got what she was on about. For instance, at one point she details how the somatosensory cortex has a map of body parts in order of sensitivity by saying; “It’s as if your body parts are getting bigger plots if they’re used; genitals and tongue the size of Texas, armpit is Chattanooga.” I actually have a list of quotes from the book, but that’d make this review way too long for anyone to bother looking at, so I’ll end it here.

I do hope that you liked the review and will consider buying the book sometime. If anyone has any other suggestions for books to read, or views on the book then please do comment them below! 


Some more of Beautifully Ugly

Hey guys, its Lydia here!
I've written some more of my novel/short story Beautifully Ugly. I really think this story is going well at the moment, I'm probably going to post every time I've added to the story, I think it will be a good way of getting my writing out on the internet.

"I'm an idiot," I said to Kim.
"Well, we all knew that hun," He giggled.
Kim is one of my best friends, I enjoy his sarcastic and overly dramatic remarks about theatre. The first day we met in year nine he said to me in history, 'hello gorgeous, I'm Kim, yes, I know its a girls name, but I think it was a sign from my parents that they knew there son was going to be gay.'
"What did you say to her?" He asked.
"That's the problem, I didn't say anything. If I grunted it would have had the same impact." I replied.
"I think you need to get over the fact that she's not for you, the girl has a boyfriend for Gods sake Aud!" Kim scoffed, "I don't like her, her aura is rimmed with darkness. Plus she's two faced and back stabby."
"You don't even know her!" I cried,
"Ha! And I suppose you do?"
I didn't reply.
As I was about to speak, Will sat down next to me.
"Hey Aud," He said.
"Hey, what's up?" I replied
"Nothing much." He paused "I must say you are looking very lovely today."
"Umm, thanks." I shrugged.
Fuck, this is why he's been complimenting me so much, he still thinks I'm straight.
I looked at Will, don't get me wrong he was handsome, and yes he is attractive, but I'm not attractive to him, at least not anymore. His sandy hair covered the whole of his right eye, which gave him the sort of boy band/Emo style. His serpent green eyes were still looking into mine, they stood out most of all against his tanned skin. His thin lips curved into a smirk as he watched me analysing his face. I smiled at him and turned away. He thought I was pretty, but in what way? He had known me all my life, but did he love me for my soul and core, or just the pretty face I seemed to have? I always wonder what beauty actually is? Do any of us know? Or are we just influenced my films and the media?
I turned to see Kim eyeing me, as he lowered his copy of Macbeth. His face said, Why haven't you told him yet?
Will turned his gaze away from me while Beth and her boyfriend Kyle say down at our lunch table, and as per usual I zoned out and reclined into my thoughts.
I thought back to the day I came out to my parents. It was two months today.
I remember sitting them both down in our living room and simply saying I'm a lesbian. There faces were both shocked at the same time, there eyes full of confused surprise. Mum's face smoothed in less than a minute, which she stood up and took my face in her hands and said 'I will always love you, whether you like men or women.' Then she hugged me tightly and kissed my hair. Dad on the other hand, he hadn't moved, and I couldn't read his face anymore. It left like hours had passed when he finally looked me in he eye, I didn't see anything, no hatred, no judgement, just nothing.
Thoughts hammered there way into my mind. Have I lost my dad? My friend? Sorry I can't give you proper grandchildren. Sorry I can't give you a son in law. I wanted to scream I haven't changed, I'm still the same Audrey you held in your arms.
All I did was reflect the same blank expression and vacant eyes, I mirrored his nothingness.

Hope you've enjoyed reading some more, let me know what you think in the comment bar below.




Monday, 4 July 2016

Lady Midnight review


Hi there, its Lydia here.
Here you have it, finally I'm writing a review about Lady Midnight. I know it should have been done ages ago, but I have had quite a lot of artwork to be completed this week. 
As I've said before Cassandra Clare is one of my favourite authors, and I just love her style of writing, with the whole craziness of the shadow world. 

In this review I'm just going to stick to characters I love and some interesting aspects of Lady Midnight. 
Emma, I loved her! One of the things I like is that Clare didn't make her like Clary, because if you've read the whole mortal instruments saga, then you know what at first Clary was portrayed as very damsel in distress female characters, but obviously that completely changes as you read on in the saga. I love how Emma is reckless, it reminds me very much of Jace, she is always thinking of the mission before herself, its very admirable and heroic. Thoughout the book she wants to discover who killed her parents, as she was told by the Clave that Sebastian (Johnathan Morgenstern) was responsible, but in her heart she never quite believed them. The only thing I didn't like about this character was when she did a WILL! When she lied to Julian about her feelings for him! Then when she asked Mark to pretend to be in a relationship with her. I have already fangirled with Shani (I realised this isn't a real world), that there is going to be a love triangle between Emma, Mark and Julian in the next book in the The Dark Artifices: Lord Of Shadows!

Mark Blackthorn, I feel so sorry for Mark. He was taken away from his family for five or so years, and when he is returned to them, he has no idea who his brothers and sisters are, they have all grown up and aged. There is so much heart break in this characters life. When Kieran, Mark's lover came into the story, I always felt a bit off about him, like you look shady mate. Then when he was willing to let Julian suffer the whipping, that was when I was like no way, he gots to go! I quite liked how Mark is bisexual, and how he wanted to sleep with Cristian and found her attractive, I so shipped them together. 

Julian Blackthorn, I love him. I like all of the characters (except Malcolm),  but I would be sitting here for ages talking about them. I love how much he's in love with Emma, he will do anything for her, much like Clary and Jace. I find it heart breaking that before the beach scene, it feels like he has to restrain himself to be with her and touch her. When he had a room dedicated to her! The feels! It reminded me of a mural, in artist speech, its something that, that person would care about or a specific event that is important in the artists life. 

I like the forbidden love story and how its all revolves around the Parabati bond. Its a really clever way of introducing the main drama and element to the story. 
Another element I love about Lady Midnight is that Magnus is in it. He's the only character that is in all three of Clare's series. He is hands down one of my favourite characters. What I also find clever is that all three book series tie together nicely, that Jace and Clary and in the end of Lady Midnight and how they're both referenced throughout the book through diaologue and flash backs. They're almost referenced like a power couple. 

The only aspect that really surprised me, that I didn't see coming was the villain Malcolm. I have to applaud Cassandra Clare for this, his character and scheme was very well structured. I genuinely didn't know who the mystery villain was, I was just as surprised as the characters were. 

Okay, last comment now. The theme of love and death is nicely introduced in the book. I saw it immediately, for my brain is now wired that way from doing my AS levels English Literature exams, Love Through The Ages. 
There is so much more I want to say, but it better to do a short and sweet book review, otherwise I could go on forever. 
Thanks for reading. I hope you have enjoyed reading my opinion about the characters and main aspects of the book. I would love to hear some of yours in the comment bar below. 
For those who haven't read any Cassandra Clare books, go blooming read some! 




Author: Cassandra Clare 
Published: 8th March 2016
Publisher: I don't know, I think Cassandra self published the book. 
Rating: 5/5


Sunday, 3 July 2016

Delirium

Hiya, it's Heather! Here's a little post on Delirium, I ramble a bit here, so apologies in advance but I hope you enjoy regardless ^-^

Author: Lauren Oliver
Published: January 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins

In a state of procrastination, I found myself scrolling down the social science fiction Wikipedia page, one of the listed books being Delirium. The plot is the part which initially drew me to reading it, to sum it up: Lena lives in a society where love is seen as a disease, so is completely forbidden, thus when deemed old enough the individual will be assessed and then paired with a partner, a little after this they are injected with a substance that revokes the instinct to fall in love.  
The general idea of the novel is impressive to say the least. A fundamental aspect of our culture is that love is positive, be it through Disney and children’s television to horror and comedy films. It hence struck me as intriguing to go to a world whereby love is a disease. This led my thoughts into how some people view certain types of love negatively because of that socialisation they have had teaching them so, sadly homosexuals are sometimes thought of this way by certain people. Could it be that Oliver is trying to demonstrate that love is always positive?
The plot was brilliant and the general pace of the novel fast, making it an easy read. There’s a point where Lena and Alex, whose a boy that changes her perspective on love being diseased, dance which is adorable (I squealed and started singing Taylor Swift under my breath). The ending was on a real cliff-hanger and to be honest I would have read the next book immediately. HOWEVER, I read reviews on what the next one is about to avoid the book being scarred and found that there is a love triangle situation! I am not patient enough to read about another girl that cannot pick a boy – if you cannot choose between two boys, your feelings for them are not strong enough to be considered true love. Anyway, back to Delirium… Hana (Lena’s bestie) was a fantastic character. She’s that typical friend that challenges you to go out of your comfort zone and tells you to ‘chillax’ despite having few moments of spontaneity themselves.
Whilst I must underline that the book was an enjoyable read which I devoured in less than a day, there were some elements of it that I feel could have been improved. For instance, the start of the book was so focused on getting the reader to comprehend the social situation that the description was somewhat lacking. Though I do understand that this can be really hard when a vital aspect of the story must be obvious to the reader and a rose cannot grow without the soil being laid down first, it did frustrate me at first. Also, Alex, the male love interest in the novel, was frustratingly persistent to the point where he reminded me of Gatsby from The Great Gatsby. The protagonist was terribly rude to him at the start, making her intentions to stay away from him so clear (as was protocol in a place with gender segregation laws) that I thought it odd that he still tried approaching her. It can be argued that love makes people try hard to gain the affection of those they feel attracted to, yet I think when anyone is that obvious that they want to stay away you should respect that decision. Furthermore, Lena very suddenly changed her attitude towards him; she went from hating this guy to spending nearly every day with him? The last point I would like to address is that Lena is very difficult to visualise, maybe she’s very humble or maybe I skipped a page but Lena is scarcely ever described except as short and not pretty but not ugly. This is great but what about hair colour, eyes, for all I know she could have a tattoo of a badger on her leg. A little game for you, count the amount of times that Lena is sweating because I’m worried about her.
What did I do directly after finishing the book? I turned on my trusty playlist and blasted The Only Exception by Paramore, then sobbed gently into my pillow about how this fit the book. I feel like an explanation here isn’t really necessary for those that have read it – like in the song, Lena grows up with a sour and twisted view of love being painful and agonising. She is aware of her mother having supposedly commit suicide because of love. Of course, this all changes when Alex insists on becoming part of her life; hence becoming her only exception. If you want a cute love story involving internal conflict and teenage rebellion then I would definitely tell you to read it. If you prefer reading about dinosaurs, murder or trains then probably not.

Alright, if anyone has any thoughts on Delirium then I'd love to hear from you! Have a lovely day or night or in between.

Carry On

Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published: October 6th 2015
Publisher: Macmillan
My rating: 4.5/5
Hey everyone it's Shani again and today I'm going to talk about Carry On! 
Having read Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Eleanor and Park and Attachments, I was eager to pick up my copy of Carry On. Fangirl has been my favourite book since day one. I cherished Cather Avery and how she had an obsession with fictional characters – like myself and 90% of girls and boys now days – I related to her like I’ve related to no other character before. 
That was until I read Carry On. Carry On, Rainbow Rowell’s latest novel, was originally created by Cath in Fangirl.

 Carry On tells the love-hate relationship between Simon Snow and Basilton Pitch, a mage and a (spoiler!) vampire who are at Watford’s School of Magick together. I read this book in around four hours… And it has astounded me. Carry On, is not only a love story but it is a fantasy novel, so very different from the Harry Potter series - though inspired by J.K. Rowling's magical world - and takes a more humorous approach to the iconic wizarding world. 

With magical spells based off of terrible pop songs, Call Me Maybe by Carley Rae Jepson being one of them, and a self-depreciating vampire who is practically a Shakespeare character, it was honestly a brilliant read. I cherished this book for it’s diversity and Rainbow’s courage to publish a book where her two main protagonists are gay and very much in love with one and other, some authors are still worried about being judged for including LGBT characters and characters of ethnicity. This made me love her even more, the fact that she explicitly chose to write about these types of characters, rather then following the same cliche pathway which many young adult fiction authors have taken before. 

It’s authors like Rainbow that inspire me to write and say ‘Well darn the rest of them!’. My favourite character is Baz, though I love Simon, Penny and Agatha as well, simply because of his dark sense of humour, his sarcasm and his utter obsession with Simon. I feel that I relate to him the most (no I am definitely not a vampire!) but because Rowell's style when she writes him becomes profound and deeply poetic, a similar way in which I write and in a way I view the world. Baz and I are extremely melodramatic people. That being said, Simon is also an absolute sweetheart and Penny is the sassiest mage alive. Rainbow Rowell's newest novel has given me a great deal of wisdom, teaching me new ways to write about my protagonists and anti-heroes. 

This was one of my favourite books of 2015/2016 and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed her other novels.